The Madhya Pradesh high court administration has banned “colourful clothes” including jeans and T-shirts by its staff during working hours to ensure dignity of the institution, a move slammed by a section of the legal fraternity as foolish.
The directive was issued by the high court’s registrar general Ved Prakash Sharma on October 16, a day after chief justice AM Khanwilkar berated former MLA and activist Paras Saklecha for attending court proceedings in jeans and T-shirt.
Saklecha, a whistleblower in the DMAT scam in the state, later filed a contempt petition against the chief justice.
The order was also issued the very day the Supreme Court scrapped the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) and restored the old collegium system, putting the judiciary on a collision course with the executive.
The registrar general, however, denied that the dress code was related to the “Saklecha and chief justice episode” and said it was “issued to maintain dignity of the institution”.
The order, issued in Hindi, specifically asked the staff not to wear “bhadkeele rango wali veshbhusha” – loosely translating to loud (and) coloured attire -- besides jeans and T-shirts.
It also said that personal secretaries, personal assistants, stenographers and readers should only wear black trousers, white shirt, black coat and tie to office failing which they could face severe disciplinary action.
The court administration provides black coats and ties to its staff working in the courtrooms.
The directive, however, did not make any distinction between male and female staff.
“How will it look, if someone wearing designer clothes or torn jeans or flashy clothes walks in and out of the court rooms?” the registrar general questioned.
The diktat generated mixed response among the legal fraternity with a few lawyers saying that it was “morally right. Others, however, felt the order was arbitrary.
Saklecha, who was asked by the chief justice to leave the court room for his attire, slammed the order as a “Tughlaqi aadesh” (order), a reference to Mohd bin Tughlaq, a monarch of the Delhi sultanate known for his whimsical and often disastrous decisions.
Senior advocate Anand Mathur also criticised the order as a “foolish diktat”.
“Unless rules are framed in a prescribed manner, no one can issue such a binding order on the staff,” said Mathur, the only lawyer who has agreed to represent Saklecha in his contempt petition against the chief justice.
The Madhya Pradesh high court has benches at Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior.